One of the joys of summer, for me, is having the chance to do something different. I am just back home after two weeks of the out of the ordinary.
At my community’s retreat house in Rhinebeck, New York, we hosted a group of 20 of our Sisters from four continents. We had a week of sightseeing together and then a week of silent retreat. It was delightful, although at times I wasn’t sure quite what language I spoke as women from France, Switzerland, India, South Africa, Chad and the Congo interacted. There were those who spoke only French or only English or a combination of bits of both. None of that impeded friendships.
There was the additional joy of discovering together the beauty of the Hudson Valley. On one of our “field trips” we found ourselves in Warwick at a site called “Pacem in Terris”. I know there are some of you who remember Marble retreats at the Reformed Church Center there, but who knew that this hidden gem was just a few miles down the road? I didn’t.
Its founder was Frederick Franck who had worked with Albert Sweitzer in Africa. Inspired by his humanitarian outreach as well as by the efforts for peace from Pope John XXIII and a Buddhist sage, Daisetz Suzuki, Franck used his talent for sculpture and his love of nature to create an oasis of peace that lies on both sides of a small river.
It has to be experienced. A quiet meadow, benches beside the little stream, startling metal sculptures such as a fish caught in the branches of a tree... nature and human art are blended here in a place of meditation.
I came away with one piece of sculpture firmly embedded in my consciousness. It is an arrangement of steel silhouettes leading the eye to the seventh and final figure. What does it mean? It illustrates the Great Law of the Six Nation Iroquois Confederacy: “In all our deliberations we must be mindful of the impact of our decisions on the seven generations to follow ours.”
What an illustration of the truth that we are all so interconnected, that none of us can ignore the others with impunity. In his sculpture, Franck has the sixth generation holding the seventh next to his heart.
How I would love to bring every lawmaker and politician to Warwick to meet this Native American wisdom made real.